mon 27/06/2022

Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow review - pop songstress partying like it's 2020 | reviews, news & interviews

Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow review - pop songstress partying like it's 2020

Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow review - pop songstress partying like it's 2020

The singer provided a spin on some feel-good classics

An average morning in Sophie's kitchen

There are few people, especially musicians, who would wish to revisit the spring and summer of 2020 with any fondness, but Sophie Ellis-Bextor might be an exception. Her kitchen discos, in which she and her husband Richard Jones, aided by their children, played a variety of covers became a lockdown source of solace and regular entertainment at a time when it was much needed.

Two years later she has taken the concept out on the road for a celebratory party, albeit sans the kids, as she admitted with a laugh. To replace her children’s unexpected antics we instead had a large wheel, spun on a couple of occasions to provide a random tune. In this case that resulted in a breezy run-through of Sweet’s glam thumper “Ballroom Blitz” and a dancefloor shaking rendition of “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”, with a cheerful Ellis-Bextor expressing surprise at how much the crowd loved Baccara, evidently unaware of the song’s status as a football anthem for the national team.

Clearly that hadn’t popped up earlier when Ellis-Bextor had looked up facts about Glasgow, a few of which she repeated with the enthusiasm of a well-meaning school teacher, something which just about stayed on the right side of endearing, as did her knowingly dry admittance that the day’s good weather had prompted her to take her cardigan off. It’s hardly rock'n’roll, but her onstage presence was likeable with its unashamed cheerfulness.

The rest of the set saw her rattle through a mixture of her own hits and various pop bangers guaranteed to keep the good times going, all the while taking advantage of a stage set layered in kitsch and glitter, with the songstress making her onstage arrival astride a life-size plastic horse, something she later added she’d bought during those lockdown months. As you do. In keeping with such a vibe, her backing band played the first couple of numbers wearing animal masks, while Jones’s bass for some numbers was shaped like the Millennium Falcon.

Much like Han Solo’s Kessel Run conquering starship, the gig worked best at a fast pace, whether a funked-up version of house classic “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” that dove-tailed into her early chart-topper with Spiller, “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)”, or a full-on, belting rendition of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”, where the good-natured party atmosphere kicked in fully, and it truly felt like you were dancing your cares away with some friends. Ellis-Bextor, now resplendent in a sparkly green dress, was shimmying away merrily by then.

Other moments were less convincing, and tipped the balance too much towards a middle-class karaoke outing, as on a version of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease. No matter the spin, this was mostly a covers collection after all, and while it is an entertaining diversion once a week, a full set had some flat moments. As strong a vocalist as Ellis-Bextor can be, her vocal didn’t provide anything new on something like “Disco Inferno” and without any theme linking the night, beyond songs she likes, it all felt a bit disposable at times.

Still, it was a performance hard to be too harsh on, one carried off with good humour and entertaining tunes, as well as sweet moments like her children video-calling her while onstage briefly, and an encore that climaxed with a striking a cappella version of “My Favourite Things” sung from the upper tier among the audience. It was her party, after all.

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